Wow. What can I say? The film pops alright. It just goes from one burst of intensity to the next. The pace is mostly relentless although there are a lot of side plots which make the film seem as though itís trying to tell more story than it has time. Which makes perfect sense when you learn that the film was just one chapter in a much larger ongoing novel-series thing that was huge in Japan back when. So the filmís intended audience would have known the overall story already. Which basically means I canít complain about the plot. Thatís fine. I didnít really want to anyway! And plus itís just such a ripping passion play. And not only that, but it offers a truly privileged look at the dark side in that the protagonist has chosen (for reasons which are to remain a mystery) the path of evil. At some point one guy pretty much sums it up when he says something like, ďIíve heard of a lot of bad guys, but this guy sounds like the worst ever.Ē Itís kind of like if Lucas made a film called Three Years in the Life of Darth Vader, and hold on, it actually was a pretty good movie. And we really see it from his tormented inner psyche. And Tatsuya Nakadai really turns in one hell of a performanceóit must be said. Tormented? Yes. But also immensely charismatic and not in an over-the-top, charming Nicholson or Hopper sort of way, but in an intimate, touching way for which I just canít think of anything comparableónot even among the spaghetti westernsóthe only thing I can remotely think of is DeNiro in Raging Bull? But thatís tenuous. Of course, the filmmaking itself is not near the perfection of, say, the best Kurosawa or Kobayashi, for example. But thatís asking too much. Good Tohoscope and a chance to see it from the other side. Thatís enough.

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